A's Gelof proving to be a quick learner

October 11th, 2022

When Zack Gelof came out of the University of Virginia as a third-round pick in 2021, he showed he could be the kind of advanced college hitter who could move quickly by posting a .988 OPS in 36 games during his pro debut and finishing the year with a 7-for-12 statement all the way up in Triple-A.

The A’s realized pretty quickly they perhaps had a player who was even better than expected, especially after a bit of an uneven junior season at Virginia. So they didn’t hesitate to push him with an aggressive full-season assignment to Double-A. Just like with his debut, Gelof handled the transition without a hitch.

“I'd been told by a few guys in the organization that might happen, but I wasn't really worried about it because I figured either way, the goal in the Minor Leagues is the big leagues,” said Gelof, the A’s No. 3 prospect (No. 94 on the Top 100). “So levels are just levels, but you're ultimately just trying to get to the big leagues and get better. So it didn't really surprise me at all.”

The way Gelof started out, it looked like he might not be in Midland for that long. The right-handed hitter hit .316/.372/.458 over the first two months of the Texas League season, but then ran into the only thing that seemed like it could stop his fast tracking to Oakland: an injury. A torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder forced him out of the lineup for about a month and a half. He reports no ill effects from the injury, but it definitely took him a minute to find any semblance of the groove he had before he got hurt when he returned in mid-July.

“It was Spring Training all over again,” Gelof admitted. “You’re going into an at-bat trying to win for the team but first at-bat, you’re not seeing three fastballs down the middle. I think my first at-bat was five straight sliders or changeups, or whatever it was, so you just kind of have to get right back into it.

“I think by the end, I was starting to adjust pretty well, and I'm getting better.”

Gelof did post an improved .837 OPS over 24 games to back up his claim of improvement at season’s end, something he’s hoping to carry over to his time in the Arizona Fall League, all while continuing to learn a new position.

Gelof was a third baseman at Virginia and played the hot corner exclusively during his pro debut a year ago. He saw a good amount of time there early this year, but actually has moved to the right side of the infield, second base, more and more frequently, and that’s where he’s focusing mostly this fall.

“It’s not really up to me, but right now, I’ve been playing a lot more second so I think I’m just going to stick with that and whatever works,” Gelof said. “I think everyone in high school plays shortstop and then I moved to third in college. Now it’s kind of like third and second. I’m jut focusing on getting better at wherever they want me.”

A’s hitters in the AFL

Denzel Clarke, OF (No. 10): The A’s took Clarke out of Cal State Northridge in the fourth round of the 2021 Draft and many things went well for the Toronto native in his first full season. He earned a promotion from Single-A Stockton to High-A Lansing in mid-June and represented the organization in the Futures Game. The 6-foot-5 outfielder hit 15 homers and stole 30 bases for the season, but did struggle with the move to the Midwest League and he’s in Arizona working to find a more consistent approach and the ability to make more consistent contact from the right side of the plate.

Lawrence Butler, 1B/OF (No. 14): After a breakout 2021 season, Butler missed nearly two months this year with an arm injury, though he still managed to hit 11 homers and steal 13 bases in 84 games. He’s making up for lost at-bats with Mesa this fall while working on his ability to make more contact after striking out in 30.7 percent of his plate appearances in 2022. He got off to a good start in the opening week of the AFL, going 5-for-11 with a homer and no strikeouts.

Michael Guldberg, OF: More than anything, Guldberg just needs to stay healthy. The A’s third-round pick out of Georgia Tech in 2020 has shown a solid approach at the plate and hit tool, though he needs to continue to work on impacting/driving the ball more consistently. He needs more reps to do that, having played in just 100 games over the past two full seasons combined.

A’s pitchers in the AFL

J.T. Ginn, RHP (No. 9): There’s a common theme with most of the A’s pitchers with Mesa this fall: the need to get more innings. Acquired from the Mets in last March’s Chris Bassitt trade, Ginn had Tommy John surgery in his Draft year of 2020, but after throwing 92 innings in the Mets system in 2021, a forearm issue limited him to just 42 1/3 inning this year. Fastball command and changeup issues are things he’s working on this fall.

Ryan Cusick, RHP (No. 13): An oblique strain kept Cusick off the mound for a lot of the 2022 season, throwing just 43 innings after coming from the Braves in March’s Matt Olson deal. A key area of focus as he builds innings is trying to get his breaking ball back to where it was as a bat-missing out pitch when he was a first-rounder out of Wake Forest in 2021.

Mason Miller, RHP (No. 20): Since the A’s took Miller in the third round of the 2021 Draft, he’s compiled just 20 total innings, missing nearly all of this season with a scapula strain in his right shoulder. He has premium stuff and just needs reps to get used to facing upper-level competition.

Colin Peluse, RHP (No. 24): Peluse was healthy in 2022, logging 120 1/3 total innings, but he struggled with consistency of commanding the baseball within the zone for much of the season. In the past, he’s shown both a slider and curve and he’s working this fall to merge them into one more effective breaking ball.